Are you struggling to gain attention and compliance from your students? Are the expectations you’ve taught, evaluated and retaught still not getting the behavior you need for the best teaching environment? It may be time to teach them a game! The research-based Good Behavior Game (GBG) , which was originally designed by University of Kansas researchers Harriet Barrish, Muriel Saunders, and Montrose Wolf in 1969, is a group contingency that may be just what you need to make your students successful. A group contingency means teams either win or lose as a team. No one is solely responsible so it supports a peer-mediated system whereby students comply in order to support the group as a whole, even if they typically do not see compliance as a benefit for themselves alone. It is a great way to teach appropriate behavior and expectations to your class in a fun game-style learning format. There are several ways to play the GBG, but here are the basics:
- Divide the class into 2 or more groups; by table, row, or other common system of dividing them.
- Post a scoring sheet as shown above with each of the teams identified or use one of the many free online scoreboard apps.
- Determine when the game will begin and end. It is typically suggested that the game be played 2-3 times per day for up to an hour each time. However, this game can be used in any way that fits the time constraints of your classroom, meaning if you have 40 minutes to spare, implement the game and watch your classroom behavior transform. Additionally, you can chose to start out with a shorter time frame, and build up to an hour. This may be especially effective in younger grades such as Kindergarten or first.
- Review posted expectations in the classroom, choosing about 3 of them to be the focus of the game. Explain these expectations and how points are earned or lost.
- Teams can earn negative points, positive points, or both
- PAX, who has a variation of the GBG, gives only negative points called “spleems”, which are just a silly way of identifying them without calling them by a negative term.
- California’s Positive Environment Network of Trainers (PENT) also has a variation of the GBG in which students are given positive points for compliance and may lose points for non-compliance.
- During the game, class continues as usual. This could be played at any time during the day with any lesson.
- At the end of the specified time frame, teams can win a tangible (recommended early on in learning the game) or non-tangible (suggested once tangibles are faded out after the game is well understood).
- Tangibles could include
- treasure box
- stars, stamps, tickets toward a larger reward
- Non-tangibles could include 1-2 minutes of one of the following:
- dance party
- act like a monkey
- talk like a pirate
- drum solo on their desks
- Tangibles could include
- How to win the game should be set in advance.
- For example, on the PAX video below, the teacher advises that a team will only win if they have 4 or fewer Spleems.
- Another option might be based on the number of positive points they receive. For example, a team might be required to obtain at least 4 positive points.
The next one adds a Most Valuable Player award for one student. It’s just one of several great twists he adds to the game for these older students! Check it out
Please ask questions if there is anything you need clarified! I look forward to your feedback.